A mother and her teenage daughter have been arrested in Nebraska after the mother gave her daughter abortion pills and the pair later burned and buried the body of the daughter’s baby, who was nearly 24 weeks gestation.
Despite the media narrative surrounding the case, which heavily implies this is directly due to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the reality is that the crimes the pair committed took place before the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision reversing Roe.
Celeste Burgess, 18, was almost 24 weeks pregnant in April when the illegal abortion took place, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. Her mother, 41-year-old Jessica Burgess, obtained abortion pills and gave them to her.
Facebook messages between the pair indicated that when Celeste wanted an abortion, her mother got to work finding the pills for her. The abortion pill regimen (mifepristone and misoprostol) is not FDA-approved for used past 10 weeks of pregnancy. Celeste Burgess was over 23 weeks pregnant at the time, and was just 17 — a minor. In Nebraska, preborn children are protected by law from abortion after 20 weeks.
After taking the pills, Celeste Burgess allegedly gave birth to the body of her dead baby, and she and her mother asked 22-year-old Tanner Barnhill to help them get rid of it. The child’s body, which had been placed into a plastic bag, was thrown into the back of their car, and the three first burned the child’s body before burying it.
The investigation began on April 26, the Norfolk Daily Star reported, after someone who worked with Celeste Burgess went to police. They claimed she had spoken of having a miscarriage, and that she was going to “dig the body up and burn the baby’s body.” Barnhill later told police the body had been buried three times, and was burned after the second burial. It all took place over a period of three days, between April 22 and April 25.
The autopsy indicated that while it was possible the baby was stillborn, as the Burgesses claimed, it was also possible that the baby was born alive. The lungs did not contain any air, but, as the autopsy report pointed out, “the placement of the fetus into a plastic bag raises the possibility of asphyxia due to suffocation.” There were also “thermal wounds” on the child’s body from being burned.
Damning messages reveal callousness toward baby’s life
In Facebook messages sent between the mother and daughter, Celeste Burgess wrote that she couldn’t wait to get “this thing” out of me, and how excited she was to be able to wear jeans today. They also agreed to burn the “evidence,” meaning the baby itself.
“The evidence present demonstrates an infant was born and died or miscarried (dead prior to delivery), was transported by this Defendant or at her encouragement to others, and thereafter buried said human remains at a place other than a regular place for burial and without proper death certificate issued or similar document evidencing cause of death,” a judge wrote. “Then the Defendant disinterred said body or encouraged others to do so at least one additional time and transported and reburied such human remains again at a place other than a regular place for burial and without proper death certificate issued.”
Media outraged over release of messages, not death of baby
Many people have criticized Meta, the parent company of Facebook, for releasing the messages. However, in a statement from Meta, it was clear that the investigation was not brought to them as a matter of abortion, but of investigating a stillbirth and illegal burial:
Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion. The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion.
Madison County Attorney Joseph Smith has charged Jessica Burgess with committing an abortion past 20 weeks, and committing an abortion as a non-licensed doctor, both felonies. Both Jessica and Celeste Burgess had earlier been charged with removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person, and false reporting.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a case like this,” Smith told reporters. “Usually, abortions are performed in hospitals, and doctors are involved, and it’s not the type of stuff that occurred in this case.”
Abortion kills a human being
Celeste Burgess was due on July 3. At 23 weeks, her baby would likely have been able to survive outside of the womb had he or she been delivered prematurely and without the ingestion of abortion drugs. Though premature, medical advancements have made it possible for babies to survive being born even as early as 21 weeks.
Embryology textbooks and experts agree that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and from that point onward, the preborn child is rapidly developing throughout the first trimester, by the end of which they baby is so completely developed that his nose and lips are formed and he can make facial expressions.
By 23 weeks, preborn children exhibit the blink-startle response and react to loud noises while still in the womb and has functioning digestive enzymes even earlier in gestation. According to the most recent research, babies in the womb likely feel pain by the end of the first trimester.
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